Yesterday’s Project: Laptop Bag

Apparently working on all those masks inspired me to keep sewing. Also apparently, making 35+ masks wasn’t ambitious or challenging enough, I had to find a project even more difficult and time consuming.

I had been thinking about getting a bag for the new laptop (which finally came!!) when I ordered it. My old computer was too big for any standard laptop bag and I didn’t bother trying to find one that would fit because it was rare I took it anywhere. Bigger does not always mean better and my old one was heavy and way too big for comfort even if the larger screen was awesome. My new one is smaller and so much more versatile, I knew I’d want to take it with me, especially for those times I’m having to sit at dance, so I needed something to carry it in.

I considered making something when one of my items showed up with some foam padding around it, but it turns out that was too small to work. The idea of doing one myself stuck with me though and I spent the rest of the time until it finally arrived working on trying to figure out how to make something that was also padded enough to give it some protection.

Something clicked and I remembered an old insulated bag I used to use when the kids were playing baseball years ago. It was one of those “potentially useful” things that I couldn’t force myself to get rid of even though I probably would never use it again. I’m glad I held on to it, because it was perfect!

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose

I had fun ripping this apart to get to all the pieces I needed. It also made it easier to wash everything before I used it because baseball grime was not the aesthetic I was aiming for in this project.

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts

At first, I thought I’d use almost all of what came out of the bag except the outer printed fabric. I ended up using the black fabric that had been the outer base of the bag, most of the foam insulating pieces, one of the strap webbing pieces and the zipper. The rest didn’t work for this project or was more than I needed.

I didn’t have a pattern, so I looked at some bags online that I liked and made a few modifications, then traced my laptop on craft paper. After adding room for the seam, a little extra and then tossing in another inch or so “just in case” (SO glad I did because things fit with just a tiny bit of extra room, so any less may have been too much less), I used that for the starting point and made a pattern of my own with the plan for the finished piece.

All of the fabric I used is fabric I had on hand. There wasn’t a single piece of this project that I had to buy. I even did the edging material on my own instead of going and getting bias tape.

Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point
Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point

All of the main layers are padded. The main outer pieces have the foam from the insulated bag, including the narrow sides. The main outside pockets (one on each side) and the inner divider have a layer of blanket batting. The only pockets that don’t have any padding at all are the two smaller outside pockets.

Laptop Bag: Finished Inside
Laptop Bag: Finished Inside
Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown
Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown

I have room in this for almost everything that I’d drag with me to sit at dance with the exception of my camera. I can easily fit my laptop, my tablet, my phone and any number of other things in here. Pockets are amazing! And I made sure to have plenty.

I have never done a project that was this complex. It really pushed my problem solving abilities to the max trying to figure out how to get all the pieces together and keep clean, finished seams on the inside in all places. Turns out, it is absolutely impossible to do that in its entirety on a sewing machine.

I had to do the last main seam by hand and it ran the outer edge from the zipper, along the base and sides and up to the other side of the zipper. By hand. I absolutely despise sewing by hand. There would be way more nudist colonies if we were still forced to sew our own clothes by hand. I’m absolutely certain of that fact.

Getting that zipper to curve over the corner and down the side was a massive challenge as well. So was trying to get ALL those layers sewn together and not have any slip and get missed. I think I pushed the max sewing depth on my machine with this project.

Laptop Bag: Finished Back
Laptop Bag: Finished Back

Even though this was a massive challenge and a pain… literally, my fingers feel beaten up and bruised today!! … I’m insanely pleased with how well this turned out. I’m kind of shocked at how well I managed to not only create a pattern that would work, but pulled off some of the kinds of details I did, like those “pleats” that give the small outer pockets extra depth. Not only did I figure out how to make it work, but I manage to actually get it to work. It is so rare that what is in my head comes out the way I expect or hope!

It took about two days start to finish. This is so not perfect and there are quite a few little goofs, but they are all so minor. Even my horrid hand stitching doesn’t look too horrid. I am so happy with this. I won’t EVER do one again, but… I’m so happy with this!

Laptop Bag: Finished
Laptop Bag: Finished

I learned a few things from this and the mask making project. One was a well needed reminder of how much I love sewing and I really miss doing it. I also learned that I have a decent handle on creating and/or modifying patterns, though this was really more of another reminder because it is rare that I do a sewing project and not modify the pattern at least a little.

Another? I WAY over buy fabric when I’m working on a sewing project. I have so much extra scrap fabric, and bigger pieces too, that it is ridiculous. I have one massive storage container full of extra fabric and a couple of smaller ones that have fabric in them as well.

Lastly? I still really, really HATE hand sewing. It hurts to type right now because the tips of the fingers I was using, or stabbed with a needle… there were lots of stabs… hurt to put even that much pressure on. Ow!

But hey! I have a cool new bag to haul all my goodies around in!

 

Mauve and Wine Iris In The Rain

I was so lucky yesterday. It had been doing this light rain, almost a mist, most of the morning, but had tapered off when I first got up. I was able to get out and get some photos of one of my favorite subjects, flowers coated in raindrops, before it started pouring, which it did for the rest of the day.

I was so excited when I went through them about the number of shots that actually came out really well. I should have plenty of pretty photos to share for a little while now.

I managed to get all of BG’s masks done yesterday and the remaining 30 some masks half way finished. I basically did all the small piecing and minor hemming that needed to be done and stopped before putting the front and backs together with the elastic and/or ribbon (doing 2 different types for versatility).

Today there is going to be a crap ton of pinning going on before I can get back to sewing. Because I am doing the 2 different types, I might actually have enough materials to get most of these finished today.

I doubt I’ll be able to get them all done as my ribbon hasn’t shown up yet. I have some on hand, but probably not nearly enough to finish. I had originally planned to do them all the same, but rethought that because of all the different people that would be getting one.

The new option was to go with the original mask design and use the elastic loops for the ears. This seems to really only work for adults and, as my Hubby can attest, not all of them. So… two different styles it is.

I had a point yesterday where I panicked a bit because I thought I was actually going to run out of thread. After years of forgetting if I had enough thread while I was at the store getting materials for a project and just getting a new spool to be safe, I actually ran out of 2 spools of white thread. Granted, both were partial spools, but still. I ran out! I went through all of what I had and found a couple more partials and I think I’ll have enough to finish. Maybe.

I REALLY hope I don’t have to make an emergency run to the store just for thread.

 

Dandelion Seeds

The neighbors are kind enough to not maintain their yard. I was finally able to get a nice fluffy dandelion seed head within steps of my yard to photograph without having to crawl around in the middle of their yard to get the shot. I love their lack of motivation from a photography standpoint. Hubby really does not appreciate it at all when looking at it from a yard maintenance perspective, though.

Besides crawling around trying to get some fun shots, I spent the day yesterday making some more masks. I now have all the pieces cut and ready to go for 35 masks. This included getting all the iron on additions along the sides (2 pieces for each mask) done as well. All I have left to do is sew them together.

I plan to get as many of these done today as I can, but I don’t have all the elastic I need to finish them. I have it on order and it should be here in the next day or so. BTW… good luck finding any for a reasonable price right now. Sheesh!

I might consider doing more if there is a demand, but as of today, my hand is killing me from all the cutting. Not just the fabric, but all the tiny little iron ons had to be cut, one of which was on the more detailed side. At least the sewing part of this won’t murder those already abused joints. It will be my back instead after having been bent over all day.

Once these are all done, they are getting gifted. One person has already asked to buy one (before I knew for sure I was going to do these), but I’ve decided that I’m not taking any money for them. It is something I really wanted to do and I like the idea of working on a project like this. The overall amount of money I will have spent when it is all said and done is negligible because close to half of these are done with scrap material I already had on hand. Besides, the group these are going to will be interacting with BG on a regular basis soon, so this just means I’m going a little above and beyond in my effort to keep my kid safe and healthy in addition to all the other people it would help.

Today’s goal is to get all of BG’s finished first. I have 4 that she has designed with fabric and print. I also need to make a final decision on what I’m doing for elastic options on the ones I’m giving away. The way I’ve modified these for BG (oh, the wire cup thingy I spent hours on the other day ended up not working well for her and we are going with the same design I made for Hubby and I, go figure!) may not work as well for everyone. I have to figure out what would be the most versatile for the most people and go from there.

All that to say I’m probably going to be busy for the next several days.

 

Mask Making

A couple of caveats:

  • This post is only for those that find wearing masks to be useful and isn’t intended to debate the merits or efficacy of masks.
  • These instructions are based on my personal trial and error and the design modifications are intended to work for me and my Hubby. They are based on the original design found here.
  • I take no responsibility for any efficacy or lack thereof of this design.

I had needed to make a couple of masks for Hubby a couple of weeks ago and did some digging around on the internet to find a pattern that I thought would work well. There are so many different ones floating around out there it is hard to weed through them all to find one that works best.

After making a couple of these for him, I decided that I needed to have one or two for myself as well as make a couple more for him so I wasn’t scrambling to get his washed and dried when he needed to run an errand.

One of the things that I liked about this pattern is that the design creates a “pocket” in the front that you can put some type of filter in to give you added protection. I’ve seen a variety of things suggested for this purpose including a folded paper towel or even a coffee filter. If you are interested in using this, I recommend doing your own research as to what it is the best practice to use for that. The same recommendation goes for fabric choices.

I just used scrap fabric that I already had on hand, which this project was ideal for using up some of those scraps. All are basic cottons often used in quilting. If you feel that the fabric you have or want to use is too thin, you can very easily just add another layer of the “Face” piece if needed.

Face Mask Project - Lining Layout
Face Mask Project – Lining Layout

You really only need the 3 pattern pieces if you layout your fabric in two layers, alternating right and wrong sides. You can use the same fabric for the front and inside or different ones. For these, I used different ones, but I’ve done some for Hubby in the same fabric.

Face Mask Project - Outside Layout
Face Mask Project – Outside Layout

Using Hubby’s original finished masks as a base, I had to cut this down a bit because it ended up covering my ears instead of resting on the side of my face in front of my ears. I cut off about a inch and a half from the ends of the original “Face” and “Cheek” pieces and slightly changed the top angle so that it narrowed to about the same width as the original.

I sewed the seams at what I consider “foot width” in that you line up the edge of your fabric with the point of the sewing foot. That works out to be about a 1/4″ seam. At this point, I’m following all the instructions on the original design up to the point where you are attaching the face piece to the mouth and cheek pieces. This is where I made a more drastic modification.

When I made the original ones for Hubby, we discovered has “floppy” ears that just folded over when he tried to get any elastic over them in the back like the original design calls for (and many other options and designs are similar) making it impossible for the mask to stay on. To fix the issue, I made 2 straps of elastic that ran across the back of the head and neck instead of the loops that go over the ears. To get it to fit him, the top piece was 10 1/4 inches and the bottom was 8. Putting together mine, I ended up with about a 1/4 of a inch more for both since the sides of my mask were shorter.

Face Mask Project - Attaching Elastic
Face Mask Project – Attaching Elastic

Unless you are really experienced in sewing, this may be the difficult or confusing place as the right sides of all pieces have to be pinned together in the correct order or your pocket doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. Once it is turned right side out, you want the central mouth piece to be the top layer on the inside (shown below when finished), but you need to pin the elastic in place first. You can either rely on pins, or you can run a seam along the elastic to hold it in place (as seen above).

Face Mask Project - Inside Pocket: Finished
Face Mask Project – Inside Pocket: Finished

I just pinned the outer edges of the face and cheek pieces with the elastic in between first, then gently folded them back so I could put the mouth piece in place, pinning the center seams before going and pinning the overlap (and I JUST realized that the below image is incorrect as this is the one I goofed on. That mouth piece should be pinned underneath the cheek pieces. See, I said it could get confusing!)

Face Mask Project - Pinning Front To Back With Elastic
Face Mask Project – Pinning Front To Back With Elastic

This part was a bit of a pain to get right because those elastic lengths are shorter than the face piece, so it wants to bunch up the fabric when you go to pin the pieces together. I had to be careful to make sure the pieces laid smoothly so I could pin the front seams together and then line up the sides in an overlap to create the pocket. You have to be careful as you sew to ensure that there is no bunching at the point you are sewing. There was a lot of shifting where it was trying to bunch so I could work in a smooth area.

Face Mask Project - Double Seam Elastic
Face Mask Project – Double Seam Elastic

Once I sewed the entire piece together, I went back and added a secondary line on each end to ensure the elastic was double secure since this is where the most stress is going to be put on the mask as it is worn. I then clipped any corners that were too large and would bulk up when turning.

The last thing is turning this right side out, which that lovely pocket makes incredibly easy as you have nothing to close up after you turn it. If you have any corners that didn’t fully turn, you can the eraser end of a pencil (anything narrow and not sharp) to push the corners the rest of the way out. You might need to finesse your seams a bit to get it to lay correctly, or if you prefer, iron it so the seams are crisp.

Face Mask Project - Finished
Face Mask Project – Finished

These aren’t completely perfect as I wasn’t going for any seamstress awards (even had to pull out at least one seam and redo it), but they are functional. As I said earlier, it is a great project to use up some scraps if you are already a sewer. If not, you can reuse old tea towels or articles of old clothing that would end up in the trash because of stains or holes in odd places if the fabric is the right type.

Face Mask Project - Final Result (My Masks))
Face Mask Project – Final Result (My Masks)

*I apologize for the crummy photos. I took them with my phone in less than ideal lighting down in my studio. Hopefully it is enough along with the original design and instructions for you to do your own if you are interested.

Upcoming Project: Ottoman Recover

We recently got new living room furniture.  The original plan was to completely replace all the old, but once we got the new all set up and arranged, I decided that I didn’t want to give up my old ottoman.  It is this big piece on wheels that is perfect for sharing and with all the new furniture being more modular with just a couple of chairs and a love seat, I really wanted to be able to have options.  Sadly, the old one not only didn’t go with the new, but it really looked bad because it was old and getting pretty thread bare in several places. Continue reading “Upcoming Project: Ottoman Recover”